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Former San Diego State baseball head coach Jim Dietz passed away Sunday, March 27, 2022, at the age of 83. Former San Diego State baseball head coach Jim Dietz passed away Sunday, March 27, 2022, at the age of 83.

Aztecs Mourn the Passing of Legendary Coach Jim Dietz

Beloved SDSU baseball coach remembered for his impact on and off the field.
By SDSU News Team

Former San Diego State University baseball head coach Jim Dietz, who coached a future San Diego Padres All-Star Tony Gwynn and completed an illustrious 31-year career at SDSU as one of the winningest coaches in NCAA history, died Sunday at the age of 83.

Dietz retired at the end of the 2002 season with a final mark of 1,231-750-18 (.620), ranked seventh nationally among active Division I coaches at the time.

“On behalf of the Aztec Athletics, I am saddened to hear of the passing of Coach Dietz and send our condolences to his family,” said SDSU Director of Athletics John David Wicker. “I was explaining to my daughter at the baseball game (Sunday) who Coach Dietz was and all his accomplishments at SDSU after she saw his framed jersey at the stadium. Coach Dietz's impact on our baseball program and so many young players’ lives will not soon be forgotten.”

During a career at San Diego State that began in 1972, the Aztecs won numerous conference, divisional and regular-season titles, earning Dietz various league and regional coach-of-the-year honors. In 1979, Dietz guided the Scarlet and Black to the program's first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance, a feat he accomplished seven additional times: 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984 — when his team won 66 games — 1986, 1990 and 1991.

“Our San Diego State baseball family mourns the loss of Hall-of-Fame Coach Jim Dietz,” said current Aztec head coach Mark Martinez. “His impact during his 31 years as the head coach at SDSU was felt not only within the San Diego community but also nationally as an ambassador for our great game.

“The standard he set for excellence in the classroom and on the diamond resonates within our program today. We continue to strive to meet the foundational expectations of Coach Dietz's legacy.”

Individually, Dietz's SDSU players garnered 28 All-America accolades, 42 all-district/all-region honors and 85 all-conference certificates. Among the many notable players Dietz coached were Gwynn, Bud Black, Mark Grace, Dave Smith, Bobby Meacham and Travis Lee.

Glenn Marshall, who pitched two seasons beginning with Dietz’s first year in San Diego, remembered handing Dietz his high school statistics and sensing a “genuine interest…that never left me.” Marshall said his teammates respected Dietz and his encouraging “unique coaching” style.

“He inspired and motivated each and everyone to maximize our own talent and strive to be the best we could,” said Marshall. “The moment he stepped foot onto the baseball field was the beginning of an era that uplifted the program forever.” 

Born in Eugene, Oregon, Dietz played at Southern Oregon College, where he was a three-time all-conference infielder and an NAIA All-American as a senior in 1959. Following graduation, he spent three years in the Detroit Tigers organization, reaching the Double-A level before leaving the pro ranks as a player.

“There would not be a San Diego State baseball program or a top 25 team without Coach Dietz. He put SDSU on the map”, said sports journalist Armen Keteyian, who played for Dietz beginning in 1975. “Dave Smith was one of my best friends. Randy Hanson, our starting left fielder, remains my best friend to this day. It’s an absolute testament to the program. I am so proud to be a small part of that Aztec family and Coach Dietz was the father of it all.”

“The legacy of Coach Dietz is the relationships that we’ve all formed at SDSU, as baseball players, that have lasted a lifetime – that might be his greatest gift to all of us,” said Keteyian.

Dietz began his baseball coaching career in 1963 at Lowell (Ore.) High School, where he remained for two seasons before moving to Pleasant Hill (Ore.) High School for three years from 1965-68. While at Pleasant Hill, he coached the varsity baseball team, winning three straight league titles to go with a state championship in 1968.

Later in 1968, Dietz became the freshman and junior varsity baseball coach at the University of Oregon, where he also guided the freshman men's basketball squad, before he was appointed head coach at SDSU in 1972.

During the 1970s, Dietz became one of the most successful summer coaches in history, spending seven seasons with the Fairbanks Goldpanners of the Alaska League. He compiled a 348-151 record in Fairbanks, taking all seven of his teams to the National Baseball Congress national finals and winning four summer championships. 

For his efforts, Dietz was named NBC Coach of the Decade. Among the players he coached with the Goldpanners were future Major League stars Dave Winfield, Mark McGwire and Steve Swisher.

Dietz was inducted into the American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2002 and was enshrined in the Aztec Athletics Hall of Fame in 2019. He is also a member of the Southern Oregon University Hall of Fame.

Other honors Dietz merited include the Super Star Award from Collegiate Baseball magazine, the Citizen of the Year Award from the City Club of San Diego and the Breitbard Award for his baseball contributions to the San Diego community.

Dietz earned a bachelor's degree in social studies from Southern Oregon College and received a master's degree in counseling from the University of Oregon.